Newly inaugurated Iranian president Hassan Rouhani came in for criticism last August when he nominated Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, who then headed Iran’s General Inspectorate Organization, to be his administration’s justice minister. Human rights groups had previously dubbed Pour-Mohammadi “minister of murder” for his key role in the 1988 executions of thousands of dissidents, in the overseas assassinations of political figures, and in the 1988 mass murder of intellectuals. Rouhani himself has a history of calling for the execution of anti-regime activists.
Human rights activists described Pour-Mohammadi’s nomination as “a bold and shameless move,” and suggested that it raised doubts over Rouhani’s willingness to make good on campaign promises to ease Tehran’s persecution of political prisoners.
In the meantime those doubts have, according to the Daily Beast, deepened amid a wave of executions:
Gissou Nia, executive director of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center at Yale University… said her organization has counted 31 recent state executions, according to official and unofficial sources, between Sept. 11 and 25 of this month. Most of the executed were tried for drug trafficking, but she said the justice system did not allow for the condemned to have adequate counsel. In some cases, a group of Sunni Kurds were sentenced to death for “warring with God,” a serious crime in the Islamic Republic of Iran that, in the past, has been used as a pretext to arrest opponents of the regime.
According to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC), Iran is on a pace to execute nearly 500 people this year.
An anti-regime activist who spoke to the Daily Beast evaluated both Pour-Mohammadi’s appointment and Iran’s continuing domestic repression, reading them against evaluations to the effect that Rouhani is able or willing to act as a reformer:
“This is the end of reform,” Saeed Ghasseminejad told The Daily Beast. He spent four months at Iran’s Evin prison in 2003 after organizing protests at Tehran University… while he acknowledged that reformers in Iran supported Rouhani, he also said there were no real reformers in his cabinet and that Rouhani was responsible for sidelining previous attempts at change in the 1990s and 2000s… Ghasseminejad pointed out that Rouhani’s justice minister, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, sat on a judiciary panel in 1988 that sentenced thousands of alleged traitors to death at the end of the Iran-Iraq War.
Ongoing Iranian human rights violations may increase concerns – already voiced in the context of Iran’s nuclear program – that there are persistent gaps between Rouhani’s change in tone and any change in Iranian policy.
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